Contemporary minimalism meets exploratory pop on Quiet Clapping, the latest release from Pallmer.
Since making their introduction as Pallmer back in 2018 with the pair of singles Blocking Time and Salt and Lavender, violist Mark Kleyn and cellist/vocalist Emily Kennedy have unwittingly grown to become purveyors of solace in a complicated age. Straddling a line somewhere between classical music’s contemporary minimalism and the fringes of exploratory pop, Pallmer blend the raw richness of traditional instrumentation with reflective lyrics drenched in longing, honesty and a thick melancholic tone. The resulting combination is akin to a deep breath, a long walk, or some much needed time alone with your thoughts.
From the very beginning, Pallmer have chosen to move by slow, calculated steps – a pace that defines their sound as much as it does their approach to releasing music. This Fredericton-based duo are not in a hurry to win your heart. That is simply an inevitability, and they appear to know it, so what’s the rush? A single here, a few songs there. Through this leisurely approach to writing, Kennedy and Kleyn have developed a loyal following and garnered a lot of worthy attention over the last three years with just eight tracks spread out over five releases. But the wait for new sound from Pallmer is finally over with the arrival of their Quiet Clapping EP. Collecting together the duo’s two most recent singles – Bricks and the title track – with three new pieces, this new release finds Kennedy and Kleyn continuing to resist the confines so commonly associated with their chosen instrumentation and continuing to explore how their collective sound works in response to their surroundings.
“We wanted the recording to embody the intimacy of the songs; to be able to push and pull, and to break away from having to fit into the confines of a click,” said Kennedy.
Saint John musician and recording engineer Corey Bonnevie played a considerable role in carrying Pallmer’s sound forward this time around. The tracks that make up this release were recorded not in Bonnevie’s Monopolized Studios – where numerous notable New Brunswick recordings have been made over the past few years – but in a dance studio located deep within a church-turned-arts-centre, an environment not exactly known for its sound isolating qualities.
The EP opens with a haunting drone that serves to introduce this next phase in Pallmer’s development, taking things further with additional sounds from the room itself.
“Corey generated the drone at the opening of the song by looping some demo vocals, and recording the looped drone through the room so that the reverb fit with the rest of the recordings,” Kennedy said. “The tune starts off with a viola loop, but gradually builds to a dense climax near the end, where we break down a revolving pattern into smaller and smaller chunks. The viola part in the last instrumental section is inspired by the 8th movement of Philip Glass’s In the Summer House.”
The EP continues to reveal the deepest exploration of Pallmer’s sound to date with layered vocals and a refined intimacy between viola and cello highlighting the delicate subtlety that exists at the root of all these that two musicians create together. Aided by looped melodies and free formed phrasing, Blanket, the midpoint on this recording is perhaps those most complex arrangement of the five with pizzicato inflections intermingling through and above numerous sweeping melodic passages while exuding a confidence that is both palpable and undeniably inspiring.
The closing track, Bricks, released as a single in February, offers a slight return to form as heard on earlier Pallmer releases placing minimalism at the forefront to craft a moment of reflection that allows listeners to fully absorb the complete Quiet Clapping experience, a brilliant pause in a turbulent reality.